Snap Inc. ($SNAP) recently announced that it is integrating a gaming platform — Snap Games — into its service, which marks its latest attempt to further engage its userbase. Right now, anyone with Snapchat can login and play custom-made games from developers such as Zynga ($ZNGA), PikPok ($PRIVATE:PIKPOK), and indie studios like Spry Fox.
In other words, Snap Inc. is breaking into a market that Facebook ($FB) tapped into a decade ago, doing so while touting developer that literally gave its competitor Farmville. And, not to mention, this comes, only a week after Apple ($AAPL) announced its Apple Arcade.
According to job listings data from its own website, Snap Inc. had only had one position listed within the past five months that had to do with video games. That position was for a 3D Artist, the sole listing that had "game" or "gaming" included as keywords, and was actively seeking candidates from December 1, 2018 to January 31, 2019.
In the job description, this 3D Artist, called a "3D Game Artist" in the full listing, was to be "someone who is an expert in modeling and texturing 3D assets." Minimum requirements included a proficiency in Maya, a game development software used by indie studios due to its reasonable price point compared to more complex software that bigger studios have.
With context, this single job posting actually is fairly reasonable; Snapchat bought out video game developer PrettyGreat, whose founders include Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride creator Luke Muscat, in the beginning of 2019. Its first project was supposedly Bitmoji Party, the flagship game on Snapchat's new gaming platform, which also seems to be the result of the 3D Artist posting.
To be clear: PrettyGreat wasn't the studio behind those killer apps that defined helped define casual mobile gaming. It did make a few gems: its first release, Land Sliders, won popular review website Touch Arcade's Mobile Game of 2015.
It'd be great to show those games off, as they were critically successful and fun to play. However, during the apparent buyout, PrettyGreat shut down all those games on the iOS platform, went silent on social media, took down every video on its official YouTube page, and then, suddenly in January 2019, its name popped up in the news again when it was bought out.
So, with no historical context of PrettyGreat's work baked into any press releases, Bitmoji Party, a lovechild between the Bitmoji characters bought by Snap Inc. and Mario Party, was born. This combination makes sense because both have shown to cause friends to stop talking to each other, and the crossover seems perfectly natural.
No matter what partnerships it lands, even if it is with AAA game developers (Skyrim on Snapchat anyone?), Snap Inc.'s $35 billion question is how it can keep an active userbase. We've written about the company's declining employee sentiments, sinking ratings, and waning userbase before, with Snap Games being its next supposed answer.
Bear in mind, these declines were happening while Snap Inc. was already experimenting with games on its platform. Granted, these games were Snappables, microgames that revolved around using touch, motion, and facial expressions to play, as well as the ability to share and compete against friends. In theory, that sounds cool, but... See below:
Maybe this is just the cynicism of a non-casual gamer behind the desk, as there is probably an appeal to a casual social gaming network.
But even through the lens of a casual gamer, Snap Inc. launched itself into a minefield dominated by Match-3 games, neverending collect-them-all fests, battle royales (*insert obligatory Fortnite reference here*), and Cow Clickers that millions of people are already sucked into.
We'll see if it winds up being the right lens for the company who wants to clearly state that it will continue to be a top social media app next to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.